Sunday marks one year since a devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, leaving more than 15,000 dead and thousands more injured or missing.
As people around the world watched the images of the destruction on their televisions, in Santa Cruz County residents had their own reasons to be concerned.
The Thursday night earthquake in Japan that generated the ensuing tsunami sent a surge toward the West Coast. At 4:43 a.m. the following morning for the coastal areas of California, with wave surges of about 2.8 feet expected to hit Santa Cruz County at 7:30 a.m. Evacuations were issued for some low-lying areas of the county.
While many Santa Cruz County residents weren’t phased by the warning and even headed out to the harbor and county beaches , many more were sent into a frenzy. Hundreds of people from all over the county . Looking for higher ground, caravans of people with cars packed to the brim with their belongings headed up highways 17 and 152 in search of higher ground.
By 9 a.m., the parking lot at the Casa Del 17 store at the summit of Highway 17 and the lot across the highway were filled to capacity with people camping out until the warning had been lifted. Highway 152 was packed with vehicles from Mount Madonna on into Santa Clara County. The California Highway Patrol was even called out to direct traffic.
After much anticipation, the surge hit the area around 9 a.m. bringing with it waves of a few feet high. Though there was not much damage reported at the county beaches, the Santa Cruz Harbor was a different story.
The swells coming in from the tsunami caused at least , leaving the boats crashing into each other during the surge. Several boats sank and two docks and many other boats sustained damage. When the , the harbor had sustained an estimated , 18 vessels capsized or sunk and 100 other boats were damaged and afloat.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Santa Cruz County and three other counties across the state—San Mateo, Del Norte and Humboldt. A little over a month after the tsunami surge hit Santa Cruz, .
A week after the tsunami, , giving some bad news. Though the harbor sustained a tremendous amount of damage, the $26 million in damages was far short of the $44 million needed to qualify for federal aid.
Today, the harbor is back to business as usual but some of the area has yet to be repaired and remnants of the damage the tsunami caused can still be seen. To read an update on the damages at the harbor, check Patch tomorrow.